I’ve been looking forward to see TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (Tomas Alfredson, 2011) since I saw the tense trailer that promised an intelligent plot along with subtle action and beautiful shots, but I had already been warned by two friends that the film was pretty much incomprehensible. And incomprehensible it was, even with the aid of subtitles. I had to read the summary of the plot on Wikipedia in order to understand exactly what happened and why. I wonder whether the novel is a more satisfying read? The shots were all indeed beautifully composed, though. This is the third film in a row were I am drawn to notice the presence of the DoP.
It is not the first time that I notice watching a sequel back to back to the film(s) it comes before gives me the impression that it allows me to appreciate it (and maybe understand it?) better than all those who watched it when it first came in the theatres, years after having seen the original. Many, in fact, regards The Godfather: Part III to be the weakest of the trilogy, but when I saw it shortly after the first two ones, I found it to be the most touching and moving of them all. While the Part I was very “straight to the point” and Part II (by the most regarded as the best of them) was the first all over again in a bigger budgeted, enhanced version, the third was a completely new, different and mature story about moral doubt, old age and love - the pure, honest love of a father for his family.
The same happened to me with ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE. I liked it more than the previous film, which I watched just the other night. Although there were apparently still many historical inaccuracies, I find myself more prone to forgive the filmmakers this time around, given the great spectacle they were finally able to put together. The character of the queen was much more interesting and in my opinion much better explored, and the director devised also more cinematographic frames worhty of this name.
Will a third and final film come in another 9 years?
Since I started studying heritage cinema in university I have been longing to watch Shekhar Kapur’s ELIZABETH (1998) expecting great visuals, great acting and a great story. While the acting was fine, I have to say that I found the visual style of Kapur to be somewhat regular - not bad, but nothing too daring or striking as well. Even the story left me somewhat disappointed: while it wasn’t boring, it did not engage me nor make me care much for its characters either. Everything just “happened”, but without provoking any emotional resonance in me. But the most disappointing thing of all is perhaps the amount of historical inaccuracies (artistic licenses?) portrayed in the film, so much that it could hardly be defined a “historical film”. While I do understand that real life does not occur with the same pace and structure required by drama, I wonder whether all these changes were indeed necessary, and an interesting film could have been made by staying faithful to what are believed to be the true events of such an important period of British history.
Despite it all, I can’t wait to watch the sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985, James Ivory) is the first of the heritage films which I will watch as part of my research for my final essay ofBritish Cinema.
The film is a funny depiction of early 20th century behaviour, and can only be enjoyed if it is understood as a satire of the restrained manners inherited from the Victorian era. However, the film does still have pretentions of seriousness, which keep it from being as much funny as it should be. The soundtrack is ridiculously invasive, and the love story as uninteresting, irritating and unengaging as in the worst Austen novel.
Tonight I finished watching PASSPORT TO PIMLICO (1949, Henry Cornelius), an old Ealing comedy that came out in the same year of Kind Hearts and Coronets. Although it was made by the same studio, I did not enjoy this film as much as Hamer’s. I guess that while the dark humour of KH&C works on more universal and timeless themes, the jokes of Passport to Pimlico are strongly rooted in the problems of the time, such as rationing and the Berlin Blockade, and hence are less felt by a modern viewer who is educated enough in the history of the period, or cannot feel that much connected to it nonetheless.
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949, Robert Hamer) is the first Ealing comedy that I have ever seen, and I enjoyed it immensly. Very witty and very clever in its dark humor and satire of the British high classes, it surprises me that something so good and timeless has not been remade already, like it happened with The Lady Killers.
Finally watched black and white Brit film BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945, David Lean). Not as dreadful as our lecturer depicted it, actually - I expected it to be worse. It’s a pity though that the relationship existing between the two main characters and between the woman and her husband aren’t explored in more depth. I would gladly see a remake of this film, if it addressed this issue.
BRASSED OFF (1996, Mark Herman). What can I say? Formulaic, predictable, naive, “American”… yet heart-warming and overall well made. Studying screenwriting in university is making me see films under a new, “clinical” eye, so that each character, action and event isn’t just “there” anymore, but is specifically coded and identified as a basic narrative device. But this doesn’t mean that I enjoy narratives less nor that I cannot be moved by them when they are well narrated.
It’s just a pity that the character played by Stephen Tompkinson was practically put aside by Ewan McGregor’s, who actually does very little apart from being a selling point for the film with his pretty face.
Uff. BLACK NARCISSUS (1947, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger) is the third Archers film that I watch, and also the one that I found the hardest to sit through from start to finish. I really can’t sympathize with nuns, I’m sorry. My appreciation of old films in general is also deeply affected by my inability of understanding the limitations of the production means of the time and the preference for exposition rather than subtlety which derived from the tradition of the theatre, but I can’t suffer characters explaining what is going on within their minds rather than showing it through actions. My severe judgement and annoyance is probably further affected by the facts that critics hail these films among the best of all times, raising my expectations above normal.
Reminded me of the existance of the film Doubt, and made me want to watch it.
THE FULL MONTY (1997, Peter Cattaneo) is one of those old movies that when I watch them make me think “why on Earth I haven’t watched this before!”. The Full Monty is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I was expecting something a lot more bitterweet - a bit like Billy Elliot, maybe - but what I got was a light comedy that made me laugh a lot more than I imagined.
I wish there were more films like this. I could really use the sillyness.